Four community leaders were recognized with honorary degrees at York University’s fall convocation ceremonies that took place this past week.
The honorary degrees marked the contributions of a visionary, a business leader, a social justice activist and a champion of gender equality.
“We are proud to honour four individuals whose lives and careers are remarkable not only for the enormous impact they have had within their respective fields, but for their positive and lasting influence on the broader local and global communities to which they belong,” said York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton. “Though diverse in their experiences and skills, these four extraordinary individuals all share a dedication to the public good. As we celebrate our newest graduates, we also honour York’s most cherished values of excellence, public service and social justice, all of which are exemplified by this year’s honorary degree recipients.”
Here are the recipients that were honoured:
Vincent Tao – innovator, entrepreneur and visionary
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Education, Faculty of Health and Lassonde School of Engineering
A founding faculty member of York University’s Geomatics Engineering program at the Lassonde School of Engineering, Vincent Tao has evolved into a global entrepreneur in the fields of technology, media and the Internet. Growing up in Shanghai, China, Tao moved to Canada in 1995 and proceeded to change the global approach to technology.
His pioneering research in the field of geomatics led to Tao’s work with spatial mapping, and eventually to the development of 3D mapping software – a precursor to Google Earth. In 2005, he was invited by Microsoft to join Bill Gates’ strategic program – Internet mapping. After a career at Microsoft, Tao founded PPTV, which is now China’s leading online TV provider, with more than 320 million users. In 2014, he founded Z Ventures Group, designed to invest and develop companies in the fields of technology, media and the Internet.
Tao has continued to author hundreds of papers and holds a number of patents. He has received many awards, most specifically, the 2016 Top 30 Tech Investor, and the Ernst & Young Most Impactful Entrepreneur Award. He currently holds adjunct professor positions with five international universities and sits on the board for a student-oriented charity organization in China. And from 2001 to 2006, Tao was honoured with a Canada Research Chair professorship at York University.
As a technological visionary, Tao embodies the admirable qualities of a leader, innovator and entrepreneur. He inspires new generations with his groundbreaking research because he recognizes the importance of education to change the world.
Rudy Bratty – solicitor, developer, philanthropist and inspirational business leader
Doctor of Laws
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies – I
Referred to as ‘The Man Who Built Toronto’, Rudy Bratty is synonymous with real estate development in Southern Ontario and indeed throughout Canada. Born in Toronto in 1932, Bratty was building and selling homes by the age of 17 to finance his education at the University of Toronto. He then obtained his law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School before being called to the bar in 1957, and was eventually appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1970.
With his legal career focused on real estate and development law, Bratty expanded his interests by serving on sports, entertainment, and publishing boards including Canada Trust Company, Financial Post, Toronto Blue Jays, Cineplex Odeon, and Brampton Brick. He has also served on several hospital boards including St. Michael’s Hospital, the North York General Hospital Foundation, and the Banting and Best Diabetes Centre.
A notable philanthropist, Bratty has supported Toronto’s cultural communities for decades. As a result, he has an extensive list of accolades, including a star on the Italian Walk of Fame, Queen Elizabeth II Gold and Diamond Jubilee Medals, the Human Relations Award by the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews, and the Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association’s Business Excellence Award.
He is the son of Italian immigrants, and so it is fitting that a wing of the museum in Halifax’s Pier 21 is dedicated the Rudolph P. Bratty Exhibition Hall. Bratty is a community leader who has pursued excellence in business and community service, and he continues to improve Canada with his generosity.
Angela Robertson – social justice activist and advocate for women’s and low-income people’s rights
Doctor of Laws
School of Arts, Media, Performance & Design, Faculty of Environmental Studies, and Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies – II
Dedicated to people and communities facing discrimination, poverty and marginalization, Angela Robertson is a passionate feminist leader whose activism and career is focused on community support. A proud York alumna, Robertson is the type of action-person that cities yearn to have on their frontlines.
Beginning in the 1990s, Robertson worked as an editor of social issues manuscripts at Women’s Educational Press, served as an advisor to the Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, was a manager at Homes First Society and the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto, and was the executive director of Sistering – A Woman’s Place for more than a decade. Since then, she has expanded this impressive resume to include a directorship at Women’s College Hospital, and is currently the executive director of Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre. Each vocation benefited from her undiminished passion and leadership.
Whether the challenge is battling the feminization of poverty, the struggles of the homeless, LGBTQ rights, racism, or eliminating the stigma of HIV/AIDS, Robertson has been recognized with a number of awards including: the Urban Alliance on Race Relations Award, the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award for Social Change, the Rubena Willis Women of Distinction Award for work on violence against women, the Women’s Post Top 20 Women of 2010 Award, and the Fred Victor Centre Mary Sheffield Award for work addressing poverty and homelessness in the City of Toronto. She has also been recognized by Toronto’s NOW Magazine as one of the top 10 community activists on social justice issues and one of six Toronto LGBTQ heroes worth celebrating.
A proponent for equity and justice, Robertson embodies the principles of York University and is an inspiration for all members of society.
Ronald Mock – corporate leader, investment guru and champion of gender equality
Doctor of Laws
Schulich School of Business: Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA
As one of Canada’s most influential CEOs, Ronald Mock has balanced his career with financial success and social responsibility. A proud York University alumnus and member of the Schulich School of Business Dean’s Advisory Council, Mock insists “Business is always about the people”.
Starting his career as an electrical engineer with Ontario Hydro, Mock worked in a variety of areas including nuclear safety and licensing for the Pickering and Bruce nuclear generating stations. He eventually moved into the investment field and served with Burns Fry (now BMW Nesbitt Burns), and was a member of the Board of Governors of the Montreal Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade before founding Phoenix Research and Trading.
In 2001, he joined the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan before accepting the position of President and CEO in 2014. Since then, Mock has captained one of the world’s largest pension funds that now encompass $171 billion in assets vested globally.
Earlier this year, Mock was named a Champion of Change by Women in Capital Markets, for his dedication to gender equality representation. A tireless champion of socially ethical business operations, Mock is an excellent example that positive change can start from the top.